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Westside Conversions
updated: Dec 05, 2013, 10:47 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

In my neighborhood on the Westside, a lot of people have converted their 1-car garages into an extra bedroom. In some cases they have built another garage with a driveway on the other side of the property. Then they use both driveways for parking, which reduces the on-street parking. Does anyone know if the City's Planning Department has rules about how many driveways you can have? Clearly some of the garage conversions are unpermitted but the City would only act if a neighbor made a complaint, which none of us would do.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 474541P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:01 AM

....This is a very weirdly worded question - Seems to sort of dance about the intent.. anyway, enough of my judgmental conjecture. I've never seen town with as many "conversions" as there seem to be in SB (maybe Berkeley). Legal or not, just be happy not many folks are paving their front yard for a parking lot.


 COMMENT 474543P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:08 AM

Only with a permit is that legal, from my understanding.


 COMMENT 474544 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:08 AM

If the curb has been lowered at the drive(s) entrance the City would have to know about it. Unless your neighbors are really resourceful and have been cutting in their own curb entrances or pouring new curbs and sidewalks!


 MISTA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:10 AM

Lol… They have also done "condo conversions" in their backyards with Home Dept garden sheds...!
The City Building Inspectors go after the more affluent homeowners when there is remodeling or additions done without permits (taxation). They will even require a permit to change out your front door... But the inspectors seem to look the other way on the lower Eastside and Westside when it comes to illegal dwellings/additions. Go figure(?)


 COMMENT 474547P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:13 AM

Is it true you need a permit to change out your front door?


 COMMENT 474549 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:17 AM

illegal conversion--so SB.


 COMMENT 474550 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:18 AM

Don't know which homes you refer to but I had a double lot, and I know a couple other people did, too. If you could build a whole separate residence with garage and driveway, and choose rather to convert a garage to another bedroom and build another garage elsewhere on the lot, I don't know why you would not be granted a permit. Nor do I see how another driveway they are using for parking reduces the street parking; presumably the car parked in the driveway would have been parked on the street if there was no driveway. Fear not, if it was done without a permit, the city will gets its pound of flesh eventually, when the property changes owners if not before.


 COMMENT 474554P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:24 AM

Personally I know a conversion that had to be undone in a less affluent Eastside neighborhood. It was caught - though no doubt there are others which escape the law.


 COMMENT 474556 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:26 AM

REPORT THEM IMMEDIATELY. If you have a quadcopter, take detailed video footage of the illegal conversion.


 COMMENT 474558 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:29 AM

Report them. They send them a Merry Christmas card so they don't think it was you!

Tis the season.


 COMMENT 474562 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:37 AM

@MISTA - you must be talking about the house down the street from where I live. Two Home Depot sheds being rented out as apartments. I never see them listed on CL, looks like students. Must get cold in there...


 COMMENT 474564 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:40 AM

Live in goleta how many cars are allowed in a driveway?. One house on our street valdez has broken cars in driveway and next neighbor has broken contraption on a car trail or for all to see. Car propped up with no back wheels for years. Who do we report too.


 COMMENT 474565 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:41 AM

When we bought our house a couple of years ago, one of the violations in the zoning inspection report was - no exaggeration - four vinyl tiles stuck on the garage floor. The city said that this was an indication of trying to convert the garage into a living space and that we were required to remove them. A conversion and then a new garage and driveway? How would somebody get away with that? Wow.


 COMMENT 474568 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:44 AM

Converting a garage into a bedroom is like driving 66 mph. You're unlikely to get in trouble for it.


 COMMENT 474570 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:48 AM

I think all these conversions were done years ago; no one has tried it lately that I know of. If you add another driveway and garage on the same lot, you end up with two driveways and curb entrances. Neighbors never know if they are allowed to park in front of the curb entrance that ends in the new bedroom. Plus with all of the overflow from the apartments across Modoc, parking is at a premium in the Westside neighborhoods from Mission to La Cumbre Jr. High.


 COMMENT 474574 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:56 AM

My neighbors built a "playhouse" in their backyard. The main house has three bedrooms with about 8 or 9 adult residents. Not sure how many are in the new structure. I doubt the city will ever know.


 COMMENT 474576 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:57 AM

Am I the only one who converted a spare bedroom into a garage?


 COMMENT 474577P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 11:59 AM

We live on the Westside, and for a long time all three neighbors with whom we share a property line had illegal units. (One was sold and eliminated the illegal unit.) Of the four houses that we see out our front window, three have illegal units. This isn't a recent phenomenon -- I've seen the planning department's street file on some Westside houses that had complaints about similar situations dating back to the 1960's, some owned by families with prominent business names in Santa Barbara that you'd recognize. A house a couple of doors down from ours was cited in the 1980's for having 21 people living in a 1,050 sf cottage, including those that lived in the garage and basement. I wish single family houses were used for single family uses.


 EZ2 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 12:07 PM

My neighbor on the Westside had to convert their 2 car garage back after the city found out about the illegal conversion!
It's illegal without permits.


 COMMENT 474588 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 12:25 PM

Don't worry most likely they're being used as vacation rentals. The city is collecting the TOT and will look the other way like they do for R-1 zoned residential neighborhoods. It's OK that the house next to you is a hotel, the city makes money. Converted garages merely provide housing for local residents.

Instead of turning them in look for a vacation rental and turn that in. Unless you think having your house next to a hotel will improve your property value.


 COMMENT 474594P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 12:40 PM

They really need to redo zoning over there like Oxnard did where you can pave over the front lawn to make a giant parking area.


 COMMENT 474606P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 01:06 PM

My experience is that the inspectors are reasonable if you work with them. We remodeled our house about 10 years ago (permitted work, nothing to do with the garage or driveway). The inspector balked at the existing sink in the garage, and the adjacent extra bathroom. We got the original blueprints from the County to show him that the bathroom and sink were already shown and approved in them -- he said "OK, you're fine... you know, there are people in this town who would kill for plans like these!"


 COMMENT 474610 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 01:15 PM

how many more people, men, women and children do you think would be on the streets if there were no garages for them to live in? ! Lots of blood sucking, gouging property owners in this town .


 A LITTLE BIRDY agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 01:23 PM

What I'd like to know is if the limited rental market in this town is suffering from having former rental units now only offered as vacation rentals. I'd wager that a good majority of vacation rentals do not provide any income (bed tax) to the city and make it harder for local people to find long term rental housing.


 COMMENT 474617P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 01:32 PM

This thread really points out what a mess this city has been allowed to become.

Remember when there was a referendum on keeping the population at 90,000 in the City? Whatever happened to that.

It's obvious that rooms are being rented in homes because of the much higher number of cars on the streets. Just drive around town on a Sunday afternoon and you'll get a good idea.

What to do? I don't know.


 COMMENT 474621 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 01:49 PM

The desirable Santa Barbara is maxed out. The undesirable Santa Barbara is looming large.


 COMMENT 474628 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 02:18 PM

That's okay, we have plenty of sunshine, clean air and water for everyone. Let's share our bounty.


 COMMENT 474635 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 02:37 PM

If they limited the number of non-related people that could live in one household, rents would have to go down as having multiple families in one house is the only way people can afford to live in SB. They would have to move, and a lot of neighborhood problems related to overcrowding would decrease.

I can't remember why that proposal to limit the numbers failed, but maybe we should get it going again.


 COMMENT 474640P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 03:25 PM

The people renting the bootleg non-permitted units in my westside neighborhood are primarily working class, with a few students. None of them are vacation rentals.


 COMMENT 474650 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 03:55 PM

Mucho dinero to be made renting out garages, storage sheds and illegal additions. Unfortunately the multitude of residents in any given area is a burden to the peace and tranquility of said neighbor hood. Yes it has been going on for a long time and looks like it will continue.


 COMMENT 474659 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 04:25 PM

4576 .... +1

MISTA ... -1

BIRDY ... the great thing about vacation rentals is when you get back from vacation the renters are gone... and your mortgage+tax+insurance+utilities was paid for while you were away. +1+1+1+1+1


 COMMENT 474665 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 04:35 PM

How about instatuting a residential parking permit system. Each lot in a residential neighborhood would receive two permits to park on the street in their neighborhood. No one else would be able to legally park in your neighborhood. Guests can park in your driveway. This system is in use in many places I'm the country.


 COMMENT 474668 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 04:45 PM

665- It's quite a process, you have to request a permit zone on your street and then get a certain percentage of residents on the street to agree.
The City then charges a yearly fee per vehicle and extra for a visitor pass.

Kind of hard to get people who are prepared to live with 20 others in a 1000sqft to pay for free on street parking!


 COMMENT 474687P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 05:57 PM

In SB, it's who you know.... There's a large home near here with a rental attached. Seven vehicles. Absolutely no off-street parking. No driveway. The city knew about this when the property changed ownership and, again, when the new owner got a permit during "remodeling."


 COMMENT 474705 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 07:11 PM

It is not healthy to convert a garage into a bedroom. The walls and floor will always be polluted from the gasoline and oil fumes. I would not want to sleep in that room. If you do not mind that. Don't worry if you are not going to sell your house anytime soon. If you are planning on selling it might be a big problem.


 NATURE BOY agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 08:08 PM

"Then they use both driveways for parking, which reduces the on-street parking." Do you mean "increases the availability of on-street parking"? Cos i don't see how parking in driveways *reduces* on-street parking.


 COMMENT 474720P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 08:38 PM

Day and weekly vacation rentals have been an issue in popular cities across the USA. 1) it would be good to know they are all legal and paying the TOT. (2.) It seems of course this is affecting the availability for local long term residents to have a wider variety of housing to choose from and that isn't inflated/affected from high rates received on weekly/monthly rentals.


 COMMENT 474721 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-05 08:55 PM

Where else would do expect all the minimum wage earners who work in this town to live? All those conversions with 20 people living in a 3 room house Is simply affordable housing.


 MESARATS agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 07:30 AM

The only way to know is the know is to pull the street file. There is a mix of zoning and those houses are old and some additions may predate current restrictions. There are plenty of rentals in the high end market but the lower end market has always been scarce. What one pays for a room here will get you a 3 bedroom house somewhere else. I think a big impact is the ever increasing enrollment at UCSB and SBCC, that latter which has become a destination college for both in and out of state students. Look at the housing wanted ads on Craigslist and you will see they make up the majority. Regarding taxes, many people who rent out their property don't claim that income, but the popular vacation rental sites issue 1099 forms. As far as the city TOT, I would be more pissed that the county is giving millions away in tax exemptions to the Miramar and large hotel developers. Going after small time vacation rentals is like stepping over a $20 bill to pick up a quarter. I think with some, even with paying the TOT vacation rentals may be more attractive than dealing with renters, which can be a total nightmare.


 COMMENT 474770 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 07:56 AM

In SB we milk the tax paying, law abiding, productive citizens for every last dollar while ignoring the illegal immigrant population and the slew of landlords and business owners who profit by taking advantage of their status and willingness.

This is no different. Try and build a fence, add a room and deal with the bureaucracy that is the city of SB Planning Dept. Its a nightmare of epic proportions... yet these folks routinely ignore the underbelly of our city because they cannot extract as much money from those who do not play by the rules. And why would they play by the rules? We let them get away without having to... And that stinks.

Call the city. Get the units removed and force the owners to abide by the law.


 COMMENT 474771P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 07:56 AM

Until we have enough low income housing, garage conversions fill the gaps. People in our hotels and restaurants don't make enough to afford their own apartments. We also have a huge student population looking for living space. SB ain't cheap!


 COMMENT 474774 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 08:01 AM

My experience is that the owners rarely use the driveway leading to the bedroom for parking, but because it looks like a driveway other people aren't sure if they can use that as a parking space. If they did use it as a parking space, could the owner have them towed?


 COMMENT 474790P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 08:53 AM

When we bought our house on Eastside, the illegal conversion -- hard-wired electricity, no water, no kitchen facilities -- was deemed illegal and had to be O.K.'ed by the city, by a zoning specialist, before we could buy the house. Lots of conversions on Eastside.


 COMMENT 474809 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 09:53 AM

If Santa Barbara continues getting more crowded and overflowing with the "next to homeless" living in sheds or garages, then the supply/demand principal in real estate in this town will flip 180 degrees. Rents and Housing prices will go down and all will be well in LaLa Land .


 COMMENT 474814 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 10:01 AM

Do the right thing and complain. Don't let the powers that be ignore that it is they who must do create affordable housing. Don't let them dump it on the poor little neighborhoods which are brimming over with illegal and hazardous housing.

Do not coddle the persons who are not abiding by those laws. They do not deserve coddling. You should be honored for your standing up for the good of the community.

I can say from experience that the city's laws do not allow someone to sleep in a garage or some kind of permitted work area in the garage. The city will enforce the law if you advise the city inspector that someone is sleeping in such an area. Help restore sanity to our lovely little neighborhoods.


 COMMENT 474821 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 10:21 AM

Due to the lack of afforable housing the rules concerning conversion and construction of both separate detached and separate attached living units has been liberalized. There are formulas established about the appropriate size of such a second dwelling unit based on the size of the primary dwelling unit, the lot, available sewer and water services, etc. Obviously one must still get a permit and the construction or conversion must comply with all building code and safety requirements. Whether elimination of off street parking by converting a garage without providing off-street parking, is a part of the proposed project, then that might require a variance of any rules that require so many off-street parking accomodations per dwelling unit.


 COMMENT 474839 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 10:52 AM

Parking is a major problem on the lower east and westside neighborhoods, much of it due to old zoning and overcrowded dwellings. The city council thinks that the solution is to change the newer 2 off street parking place zoning to 1 spot. How that works, they think, is if you make it harder to park people will get rid of their cars, just like in New York.


 COMMENT 474851 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 11:31 AM

They should do a survey to see if any City employees have gotten rid of their cars. If none of them have, then they should take that as a sign that their policies aren't working, and stop forcing them on us.

You know that a majority of the City and County employees are driving downtown each day. That is why the freeway onramps are clogged at 5pm each day.


 EARO65 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-06 02:08 PM

don't mind the conversions, but I do think the tax man should hit them for unreported income. Ever wonder why your taxes are so high? Could be those cheats next door.


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